House Bill 787 sponsored by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) gained approval by the Georgia General Assembly on March 29. Georgia Charter Schools Association appreciates our coalition partners and members that joined us in advocating for this critical legislation. The bill provides additional funding for state-authorized charter schools and ‘forward funding’ to all start-up charter schools to help cover enrollment growth costs. While we will continue to work to achieve full funding equity, HB 787 is a significant step forward.
Below is a more detailed summary of the bill (As Passed) and what it would accomplish if signed into law by Gov. Deal:
- Ensures that state charter schools are eligible for RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) services and membership. RESAs provide resources to school districts throughout Georgia for items such as professional development, training on state academic standards and assessments and technology use. The bill makes clear that state charter schools because they are LEAs, can join RESAs.
- Increases the “state supplement” funding provided to state charter schools. The bill boosts the calculation of the state supplement for state charter schools from the five lowest funded districts in the state to a per-pupil amount equal to the state average of local revenues. However, if a charter school is located in a local district that falls below the state average, the charter school will receive the greater of the local district average or the average of the districts that comprise that school’s attendance zone. The amount each school will receive will vary by location and attendance zone.
- Provides an increase in capital funds for charter schools operating in ‘expensive’ districts by matching the local portion of capital funding. State charter schools can receive the additional money if they are a brick and mortar school located within the boundaries of a local school district where the capital revenue (per student) exceeds the state average total capital (per student), capital funding provided to the charter school to equal to the district’s capital revenue. The change increases per-student capital funding but would vary depending on a school’s location.
- Provides for an increase in per-student capital funding to virtual schools to offset certain technology costs. The funding can be used for computer hardware and software ongoing maintenance that is necessary and required for students to participate in virtual instruction. The capital funding would equal one-fourth (25%) of the statewide average total capital revenue (per student).
- Provides “forward funding” to charter schools (state and local) to cover the cost of exceptional “horizontal” and/or “vertical” enrollment growth. Schools could use the funding in their first year operation or the first year they offer a new grade level. Schools could also receive the funding for an upcoming year in which student growth in the existing state charter school is projected to exceed 2% (if authorized by the charter). It would provide funding on the basis of a school’s projected enrollment according to an enrollment counting procedure or projection method stipulated in the terms of the charter. It would provide forward funding for enrollment expansion—especially for single site charter schools operating as their own LEAs. The forward funding would significantly reduce funding constraints that have traditionally prevented charter schools from accommodating/enrolling new students—even when there is substantial demand from the community.
- Provides a Department of Education and State Charter School Commission grant program for replicating high performing charter schools. The program is currently unfunded and would be subject to future General Assembly Appropriations. The grant program is primarily for charter schools in rural areas. Grants would be awarded based on the likelihood of success in replicating a high-performing charter school or feature or program of a high-performing charter school.
- Requires the Department of Audits and Accounts to develop a comprehensive annual report on charter schools that offer virtual instruction. The report will be distributed to the State Board of Education, the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Lieutenant Governor by January 1 of the year the school charter becomes eligible for renewal.
- Provides needs-based financial aid scholarships to students for postsecondary education within the Georgia University System. This provision was added late in the legislative process and does not pertain directly to charter schools.